30 Days Learning to Walk

Name: Teagan Glenane

Occupation: Photographer

W: childrenfirstfoundation.com

How we met: Teags and I worked together at Fairfax in Melbourne. She was the cadet photographer in our newsroom and one of the most loved members of staff because of her willing to help others and do everything with a smile on her face.

The media world can often be all-encompassing and what I admired about Teagan was that she always seemed to have really good perspective amongst the cut-throat nature of it all.

You’d subtly hear about little side projects she had going on in her spare time, perhaps a mid-week exhibition raising money for kids in Africa or something equally as valuable.

I don’t think there was a week that went by that we worked together that I didn’t think to myself, “gee, that Teagan is a good egg!” After reading her remarkable story and watching the video  below (it’s great trust me), I’m sure you will agree.

Meet Teagan:

It was semester break during my final year at uni. I was exhausted, and uninspired. I couldn’t think, let alone lift up my camera and I was frustrated that I couldn’t come up with a project for my final folio.

I’d gone from being completely focused on commercial photography, to suddenly jumping into the realm of photojournalism.

Though I had loved the previous six months traipsing around photographing models on catwalks at fashion weeks and festivals, I was feeling like a drop of water in a vast ocean and I wanted a total change.

I realised all of a sudden that I had to commit at least the next four months of my life to documenting something different, something that would be meaningful, useful, and would have a positive impact on someone else.

So began hours of researching local organisations, trying to find the “thing”, I wanted to contribute to.

Somehow I came across the remarkable story of Moira Kelly and her organisation, Children First Foundation (most commonly known for their work with conjoined twins, Trishna and Krishna).

Among other things, the foundation provides the ways and means for children in need of medical attention to receive it. I immediately set up a meeting and within the week I found myself driving to the Children First Farm, about to meet a little boy who would have such a big impact on my life.

Issa was seven, and from a small village in Tanzania. We didn’t speak the same language, and we had vastly different lives, but somehow we connected and over a period of weeks, found a way to communicate.

The first time we met, I tagged along on a trip to the swimming pool. He had rarely seen water and was trying to learn to float. Such a small thing for us, but it’s difficult to comprehend what these experiences must have been like for him. I would bring disposable cameras to teach with, and on the next visit bring back his photographs. The joy and astonishment on his face when he saw them was priceless. It built a great bond between us.

Born with a severely clubbed foot, Issa found it difficult to walk, run, ride a bike, climb and do other basic things. His disability made him an outcast in his community.

My camera and I document the early stages of his treatment, from the stretching of his legs and casting sessions, to physiotherapy.

At the last minute, I was invited to be in the room during Issa’s surgery, where doctors attempted to straighten his leg completely. I’m not sure I can accurately describe the day, as it was such a blur.

My most vivid memory is watching him go under for surgery. Those who have been through that would know that it is a horrible and emotional experience. It was at that point, for the first time, I felt myself breaking down the boundaries of the photographer/subject relationship.

One that some contest should remain separate, but for me at least, I find the smaller that gap, the better my work becomes.

The days following the surgery were difficult, but Issa was a trooper. He was in a cast, and wheelchair for sometime before he was able to start wearing a brace, and having physio to be able to walk again.

During this time, I had completed a short multimedia piece, which was used to help secure Issa a sponsor, for his return to Tanzania. The day I got the news he was sponsored, I was completely overwhelmed, and relieved. This meant for the first time in his life, he would not only have a solid roof over his head, but an education, and three meals a day. This should be a basic human right, but it is one that so many around the world are denied.

I mean, we all know this, we’ve seen the ads. Some even know the statistics. But it wasn’t until I met Issa, that it became real, that I could see the impact of this deprivation in front of my eyes.

After a few months of rehabilitation, it came time for Issa to go home. I was lucky enough to accompany the incredible Gwen, and the now, very grown up, healthy, and healed Issa, on his return journey to Tanzania. But that’s a story for another day.

Issa and his brother are now in a boarding school near his hometown in Tanzania and I long for the day when I can go back to see how he has progressed.

Since working with Issa, I have spent many hours with the wonderful staff and kids at CFF. They are an incredible collection of people who in ways (big or small) all working together to give a chance of a new life to those kids who may otherwise have had a much more difficult fate.

Though you wouldn’t know it from meeting the kids, no matter the race, religion, age or ailment, they are all exceedingly happy, and get along like one big family. Driving away from the Children First farm, you always feel a great sense of purpose, and hope.





  1. Camille Peucker says:

    Congratulations! What an inspiring video

  2. Verity says:

    Absolutely brilliant! I have goosebumps and tears and a happy heart 🙂

    • christie says:

      It’s soooo nice hey?! Thought it would remind you a bit of ur little african friend xox show it to stubbs too!

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