Samoa with Jake Buntjer

Rheumatic Rescue in Samoa

Samoa has the highest rate of Rheumatic Heart Disease in the world. Rheumatic Heart Disease is caused when the Strep bacteria moves into the heart, causing heart murmurs and heart failure. It affects children ages 6 to 15 and is preventable and curable. Jake Buntjer was selected to travel to Samoa to work with the group Rheumatic Rescue and go to the schools there to screen children for the disease and treat them with Penicillin. They also taught them basic preventative measures such as washing their hands and going to the doctors at the first signs of a sore throat. They also delivered humanitarian and school supplies that others had kindly donated to the program.

Jake was there for two weeks and was tasked with documenting both the activities of the Doctors and nursing staff of Rheumatic Rescue as well as the lives of children that they were testing for heart disease. Jake was photographing nonstop all day long, it challenged him to focus his storytelling and find the images that best described what the group was doing there in Samoa. Jake realized early on that this was a story of hope and love, and that they were literally saving lives. This knowledge helped him push himself deeper into the work. Jake's photographs are being used for a wide range of objectives: from slideshow presentations to help raise millions of dollars to preventative care posters that will be hung in all the schools in the country. The images that Jake was able to create has helped raise both awareness and additional funding to help the prevention as well as the continued medical care for many Samoan children.

Jake expressed a humility to be a part of such a wonderful organization and because the first partnership was so beneficial they have asked him to return and photograph again with them next May.