A day with Rondé

The band Rondé is a rising star in the dutch music scene, they just started their clubtour in the Netherlands last week. I was present at their first performance in the Tolhuistuin, also known as Paradiso-north.  I decided to start when the band arrived at Paradiso, not just when their performance started.  I wanted to show a little bit more then just the regular showphotos. Right before we started dinner, I also had the chance to take some portrait photos.   

The band Rondé is a rising star in the dutch music scene, they just started their clubtour in the Netherlands last week. I was present at their first performance in the Tolhuistuin, also known as Paradiso-north. 

I decided to start when the band arrived at Paradiso, not just when their performance started.  I wanted to show a little bit more then just the regular showphotos. Right before we started dinner, I also had the chance to take some portrait photos. 


My first billboard

My first billboard was shown in an important business sector of Amsterdam, near the A10. It was shot for an organisation called Toogethr. A nice initiative to promote sharing rides to get to work. 

Everything is shot with the Sony A7Rii, with broncolor light.

New lens: Carl Zeiss batis 18mm f2.8

I have been looking for a prime lens in the wide range for some time now. . I have always used a 16-35 for all the wide work I needed to do, mostly landscapes, architectual work and interior design. This has been the case since I started shooting, with Canon, 6 years ago.

Last couple of years, whenever I shoot events (weddings and other events involving people)  I have been using a 35mm lens (When I used canon I had sigma f/1.4, with Sony I use the RX1RII). Last year I felt the urge to add more drama to my shots, go wider, and I started using my 16-35 for event work as well. Considering the fact I am a prime lens geek, this was kinda off, so I started looking for alternatives. I have considered multiple options, like the CarlZeiss 24mm, and the SamYang 14 and 24mm. I was not convinced. Then I found the CarlZeiss Batis 18mm, f/2.8. WOW. 

Immediately, convinced. If you're looking for a wide lens in the area of 14mm - 24mm, for Sony E-mount, this is the one you want. This lens is off the chart, in every way. It's fast, CRAZY sharp and beautifully coloured. This lens gives you the feeling you are using something special. And if you love you're loving your prime lenses even remotely similar to how much I do, you're going to fall in love with this lens, as much as I do. If you're looking for something special, the relatively high price is very worth it. 

Looking forward to shooting  the first events with this lens, will post more when available. 

International women's day

On International Women’s Day #IWD2017, we celebrate not only the visible women leaders, but also the less visible voices of empowerment. Meet Manal from Idlib, Syria.
This powerwoman lives in a refugee camp in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, with her husband, daughters and grandchildren.

For 5 years, she’s been living here.

Every day, is a fight.

She and her family have to pay about $100 US dollar a month to live in a tent, in a camp with an open sewer system.

Every month, they battle to have a roof over their heads, and food in their mouths.

Every day, she fights for her family.

Every day, she is a powerwoman.









Meet her powerful daughter:

This powerwoman lives in a camp in Bekaa Valley, with her parents and her children. At the age of only 22, she has a four month old son Moustafa, living in a tent with her extended family. Her fight for a better future for herself, but mostly her children, is a daily fight. She is finishing her BA in Philosophy, because she believes that her education will change her baby’s entire life. An educated woman, can create a lifeline of development.

Every day, she fights for her children’s future.

Every day, she is a powerwoman.

Text © Zita Luiten

A child's dream

Together with Zita I visited these Syrian children in Shatila refugee camp in Beirut. The camp was originally set up for 3000 Palestinians, but it now houses over 25000 refugees, many of them Syrians. This poor camp with it’s dismantled apartments is basically outside of Lebanese police control, and is completely run by gangs.

Many of these traumatized Syrian child refugees turn to gangs at a young age and leave schools. BeFriendMe is an initiative that utilizes classical music, yoga and creativity to channel their traumas into something a bit more positive, and to keep them away from criminality. 

Besides the traumas they have encountered and continue to encounter, these kids and their parents don’t have any legal documentation. Through Lebanese regulations, this keeps them from having any job, and it means children can’t get their school diploma. They can still go to a school after school hours, but they can’t participate in any exams, let alone get an official diploma. 

In a situation that seems to have little future, we wondered what these kids dream of. What they want to become in the future. And we found out… They still dream big. Check it out for yourself.

Ayham Chokhadar – 10 years

Aya Khatab – 11 years

Walaa Amin – 9 years
Bollywood Movie Director

Mohammed Atal – 13 years

Mohammed Khatab – 9 years
Defend his country

Raghad – 4 years
Don’t know

Emad Abdul – 9 years

Natek Attar – 11 years

Shahed Ghlef - 9 years

Hassan Hadad – 7 years Catch fish & open a fish market

Hassan Hadad – 7 years
Catch fish & open a fish market

Houda Ahdad – 5 years
Teacher (Miss)

Hamsab Azmeh – 9 years

Rahma Azmeh – 8 years

Hiba Haldat – 11 years
Heart Doctor

Workshop: Active voices of Syria

Syria, the country that is falling apart. Weve all heard the terrible stories and seen the horrifying suffering. But until I met Hodday, I have not really experienced the positivity and power of the Syrians themselves. I met Hodday during Merit360 in New York where his story impressed me, where the horrible things he experienced horrified me but mostly where his positive vibe enlightened me. Coming back home, I immediately felt like I wanted to get involved. Only a week later I got to meet Abir, the co-founder of Mobaderoon and a group called "Active Voices".  What they do comes down to the following;

In light of the ongoing conflict in Syria and the high number of Syrians leaving the country because of it, it is necessary to establish a network that aims to support and build trust and understanding between the Syrian diaspora, host communities, and Syrians in Syria.

I met Abir on the day prior to the workshop. She currently has a house in Lebanon, but lived in Damascus until 2013. She told me she keeps the key to her home in Damascus in her wallet, and it will come out whenever she is able to go home. Until then, Lebanon is not much more than a place to stay. Remarkably enough, she doesn't even own a set of keys to the place where she lives, because she doesn't want to get used to calling it home. Home is in Syria, and however challenging the situation will become, she will fight for her right to go home, someday. 

The "Active Voices" workshop the following day was filled with Syrian people living in various areas in Holland. I spoke to a teacher from Assen, a doctor from Groningen and a mechanical engineer from Rotterdam. We started with introductions in three languages, I was actually surprised about how good their knowledge of the dutch language was. 

They talked about themselves, where they came from, where they currently live, and about their future. They talked about misconceptions, getting used to Holland and about what change they can bring, together.

At one point, they were asked to do an exercise. The group held a rope and was instructed to form a square having their eyes closed and not being allowed to speak. They were able to comment afterwards, this is the one that made an impact on me;

"While we felt restrained by a higher power, the most important thing is that we did not fall apart"

360 ° of Life: Rose

They say life is art and it's clear from the get go that Rose Mmbaga lives hers in colour. However, it's not just her beautiful bright clothing that makes her so vibrant.

When World Merit set a competition asking Merit360 hopefuls to distribute 200 surveys regarding how the UN is perceived, Rose went one step further and reached over 1,000 people in her home country of Tanzania, Africa.

This achievement won her the opportunity to deliver a speech at the United Nations, an opportunity she used to raise awareness around SDG 13, Climate Action, and to encourage further representation for Tanzanian women within the UN.

Climate Action is a topic very close to Rose's heart as 75% of Tanzania's economy is dependent on agriculture which can easily be destroyed with extreme heat. 

Rose told Merit360: "when our agriculture is affected women in the community are normally affected most. While doing my surveys I realised now is the time to advocate for climate action."

It doesn't come as a shock to learn Rose is not nervous to deliver her speech, on the contrary she's eager to bring her charisma to the UN stage.

After studying sociology at St Augustine University of Tanzania, she is now a senior marketing and communications officer for Raleigh International, an organisation which aims to connect communities with passionate changemakers.

After Merit360 Rose has been invited by International Labour Organisation (ILO) to speak about her experience back home in Tanzania and in Nairobi, Kenya. Her main aim in life is to give women a voice within the UN, she said: "I'd like to be an ambassador for Tanzanian women, and an example to them that anything is possible if you try."

In her spare time Rose endorses tourism in Tanzania by attracting people to visit Mount Kilimanjaro, as well as supporting her single mother with her clothing line by buying her creations, modelling them and selling them to other fashion enthusiasts.

Click on the photos for a better view 

Text: Rochelle Beighton


360 ° of Life: Tatiana

It's not often that ambition and compassion come together harmoniously yet Tatiana Sharpe has successfully managed to balance both since childhood.

Being born and raised in Zimbabwe, Southern Africa, Tatiana has always been exposed to injustice and vast differences in society that have fueled her passion to help others; making joining SDG 16 - Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions an easy decision.

At just eight years old she decided to help underprivileged children by writing and illustrating her own non profit book called The Lonely Tiger, which follows a tiger's journey to find friendship. 

As well as its proceeds going towards providing children with textbooks and food, the book taught them to always be a friend to those in need.

Tatiana told Merit360: "I remember at five years old going with my mum and giving out clothes and food in orphanages. At the time I was an only child and they were the closest thing to brothers and sisters I had." 

Proving good things come in small packages Tatiana continued her charity work by creating a partnership with the youth parliament of Zimbabwe at the age of 14.

This marked the beginning of her own trust called Tariro Nevana (Hope for the children) which aims to give a hand up, rather than a handout, to children who were living on the streets.

Putting her trust on hold to finish her degree in International Relations at King's College London, Tatiana hopes to continue her work in the future by setting up a sanitary system for the children and providing them with camping sets.

At just 20 years old Tatiana exudes self assurance and dreams of establishing her own advisory law firm which works with states to create change through a better understanding of diplomacy.

Above all Tatiana believes everything happens for a reason as she was originally on a path to becoming a professional ballroom dancer before her partner, Junior Gwap, tragically died in a car accident.

She said: "it was very difficult for me to even think about dancing for a long time, I couldn’t picture dancing with anyone else, but I soon realized my education in International Relations was very important to me and now I'm here today at Merit360."

"I know he wouldn’t have wanted me to stop dancing and so I've started dancing againin London, I hope to dance in his name for as long as I physically can."

 Text: Rochelle Beighton
Click on the photos for a better view

360° of Life: Deepak

“You should shine so bright that your light becomes someone else's spotlight”

Most people don't know what their calling is in life and so they set professional goals and boundaries to work towards. But SDG 4's Deepak Ramola isn't one of those people.

It's clear from the start Deepak's special as he believes his calling in life is to genuinely listen and retell a story in the most authentic, dignified and most personal way possible.

He's been doing this since he was 17 when he founded the Project Fuel Foundation which aims to Forward the Understanding of Every Life lesson through teaching globally.

He told us: "what I really want to do is meet my highest potential and the best part about that is you don’t know what your highest potential is."

In the past his teaching workshops and 90 day Masterpiece tours have taken him back to his home country of India to teach children with drug addiction, and Nepal to help people move on in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquake. He also tackled the stigma around refugees and visited places where he felt people misunderstood refugees and saw them as alien.

His inspirational speech on day 5 earned him a standing ovation as his life lessons captivated the audience. His main message was to be open to new beginnings, to recognize we don't break ties with people we break ties with the thoughts they produce, and to own our story.

Despite being a beacon of positivity most of the time, Deepak's work can be straining. He said: "it can be demanding sometimes. You can never get sick or fall short so it's a difficult job to always give 100 percent of yourself all the time."

When he's not speaking all over the world Deepak is making his mark on Bollywood with his love of music as India's youngest ever lyricist.

He said: "I think I am musically challenged. But I couldn’t take that and told myself, if I cannot sing I have to be associated with music in some way. So I taught myself to write songs."

It's difficult to know where he finds the energy to accomplish so much, but he credits his mother and her work ethic as his inspiration.

"She is for me all that is possible." One thing's certain, his optimism is infectious.

Text: Rochelle Beighton
Click on the photos for a better view

360° of Life: Zaitoon

At first it's Zaitoon's beauty and striking green eyes that draw you in, and then she starts to speak and suddenly it's not just her beauty that makes her interesting. Back home in Amsterdam Zaitoon works for Deloitte as a consultant in strategy and operations, enjoying the structure and professionalism the job brings.

In her spare time Zaitoon runs a youth group for girls called Teen Girls Club which tackles gender equality. This group gathers girls from all different cultures and backgrounds between the ages of 13 and 18 to teach various topics such as identity and professionalism.

Teen Girls Club first started when Zaitoon was giving a conflict resolution training lesson in Amsterdam and met a young girl who felt lonely and disconnected. It's unsurprising she decided to give something back and start her own group. Talking to Zaitoon it's easy to see how much she cares about others.

She said: "we teach girls basic professionalism and educate them in various topics to inform them about what’s happening in the world. It's so rewarding to see these girls grow over a period of time, it makes me so proud. They really make me feel alive."

Zaitoon's all about striking a balance in life, whether it's socially, professionally or religiously.

"Religion is a conscious choice you have to make and if you don’t make it for the right reasons then there's no point. I think it's important to be open about religion and never be defensive about it, always be open to other people's opinion."

Text: Rochelle Beighton
Click on the photos for a better view

360° of Life: Paul

If ever you need a science question answered chances are Paul Bissonnette is your guy. As a member of SDG 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Paul is taking a break from his 4th year at the University of Dalhousie where he majors in Physics and Chemistry.

While here at Merit360 he hopes to produce real change through spreading awareness and implementing ideas.

It's clear Paul means business as, despite only ever commuting on his bike, he cycled all the way from Nova Scotia, Canada to Connecticut, USA, in an exciting 12 day adventure aimed at spreading awareness and measuring air pollution.

Paul's bike was kitted out with a solar panel on the back which charged his battery pack during the day as he rode. He would then use the battery to charge all of his pollution monitoring equipment at night in preparation for another day of research.

He told Merit360: "One day I was standing beside a big vessel that violently blew up while I was stood just a few inches away. This made me process my own mortality and ask myself, do I want to be working on things that might be helpful in the future, or do I want to be working on science that definitely will help people and the world in a concrete way?

Doing this crazy cycling journey was my way of spreading awareness and choosing the latter with my research."

As well as recognition around sustainable cities Paul believes in making science more understandable to the general public. This enthusiasm stems from one of his idols, Richard Feynman; a man he's always looked up to for simplifying complex scientific topics and making them approachable.

While talking to Paul it's easy to forget he's only 22, yet behind his scientific jargon is a young man who loves hiking, and rock climbing. A hobby which has taken him all over Canada and the U.S.

For more detail about Paul's journey have a look at his blog, the Cycling Scientist.

Text: Rochelle Beighton
Click on the photos for a better view

360° of Life: UN secretary General Ahmad

You wouldn't think a defender of the rights and interests of young people all over the world would be so young. Yet at just 32 years old Ahmad Alhendawi is the United Nations Secretary General Envoy for Youth, making him the youngest serving UN senior official.

As an advocate for over 1.8 billion youths, Ahmad is all about breaking barriers. He strives to make the UN more accessible to young people everywhere, believing world leaders can learn a lot from the millennials. 

He told Merit360: "What world leaders can learn from young leaders is courage - being bold enough to tackle issues without cynicism.

"World leaders can also learn to listen — to listen to each other, to be humble enough and modest enough to know that you can’t do everything alone and you need to work with others."

Ahmad first strikes you as a man of influence and positivity with a dedication to put the voices of our youths at the forefront of change making.

Yet behind his formalistic exterior is a young man from Jordan, who's looking to make a difference and implement and encourage reform for future generations to come.

Ahmad's main message to changemakers is one of humility. He said: "you should not be tempted by the illusion of cynicism, and you should not be tempted by the illusion of utopia."

Click on the photos for a better view
Text: Rochelle Beighton


360° of life: Sao

The first thing you may notice about Sao Sochen is that he's a monk, but you soon realise there's much more to him.

At 22 years old Sao is studying for two degrees, International Relations and English Literature, at Pannasastra University in his hometown of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

He belongs to SDG 4, Quality Education and much like his idol, Martin Luther King, Sao hopes to be an ambassador and implement free education in Cambodia through Merit360 and his own organization, the Social Monk Assembly.

The Social Monk Assembly consists of three main sectors. The first focuses on donating charitable donations to the elderly, the second centers around the environment, and the third follows what Sao is most passionate about, education.

He told Merit360: "I believe education is the route to end poverty. It is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world."

Sao is thankful to Soriyany Sam, an American Khmer refugee from Oregon who encouraged him to pursue higher education.

Like her he hopes to direct people to education through support, motivation and hope. There's a tranquility and certainty to Sao that makes you believe in his goals no matter how ambitious they seem.

When he tells you he wants to expand his network at Merit360 and open his own school in the future to provide free education, you know somehow he'll get there.

Click on the photos for a better view
Text: Rochelle Beighton

360 of Life: Jerry White

Hey, i'm in New York! YEAH! Im currently documenting the awesome Merit 360 event, expect a lot more in this series in the coming two weeks!

Life:  Jerry White Executive co-chair of Global Covenant Partners

Right of the bat, Jerry is present. His energy, movement and speech captivates a room and fills it with an inspiring sense of positive energy.

In 1986, at just twenty years old Jerry lost his leg while hiking in Northern Israel. As he followed the footsteps of the biblical prophets he unknowingly entered a landmine and stood on a grenade.

After losing his leg, and almost his life, Jerry fought hard to become the man he is today- an activist. Everyday Jerry campaigns for the removal of landmines and for it's survivors to rebuild their lives.

Jerry is a man who actually influences other people. When he talks you not only listen, but you get to thinking. In a short matter of time his words can have a lasting impact on how to better yourself and treat others, especially those with disabilities, equally. 

In May 2008, his book, I Will Not Be Broken: 5 Steps to Overcoming a Life Crisis, inspired readers around the world with a detailed account of his injury, his recovery and his work on banning landmines with Survivor Corps.

By day he's out making the world a better place, by night he slips out of his role as Jerry White, enthusiastic changemaker.  Retracting into his more introvert, relaxed, self, to charge for the day to come.

Click on the photos for a better view
Text: Rochelle Beighton