Helen is a humanitarian photographer and storyteller, wife and mother of three beautiful children; Hope, six years, Eva, four years, and Maz, three years. Recently relocated back to New Zealand after 6 years living, working, growing and raising her family under the African sun in Uganda. Helen speaks of Uganda and her people so warmly it’s easy to understand there is a part of her that will always belong there. Although grateful to be home and close to friends and family, Uganda is irrevocably etched into her heart; after-all it’s the place she became a mother.
Talk to us about leaving Uganda after 6 years, your move home to New Zealand, and what it means for your family.
Leaving Uganda was the hardest decision we have ever made. However, a number of factors led us to come back to our birth country including some health issues, exciting job offers and the opportunity to put down some roots. Moving back came with mixed feelings. On one hand we were so sad to leave the country that has given us so much. Our babies, incredibly fulfilling work, a beautiful home and deep friendships. On the other hand we were excited to have our families and close friends in NZ get to know our kids and be able to do life together again. Plus, we were so grateful to be continuing our jobs, albeit from a new location
Four months on, how are you all settling in?
The first month was very challenging for our family. We all struggled. It was HARD leaving everything we had ever known as a family: the food, climate, friends and a life we had lovingly built. In hindsight, I had done all the ‘practical’ things I needed to prepare the family eg: purchased beds, washing machines, a car, sheets, drawers etc and shipped them to our new home. But I was not prepared for the onslaught of emotions that would hit as the reality of our move sunk in. Now, four months on, we are all doing much better. The Covid lockdown has been exactly what our family needed to cement our new life, fresh routines and re-connect with one another after a hectic re-entry.
What does motherhood mean to you?
Motherhood is the greatest gift I’ve ever been given. Three little humans to love and raise. I am floored by this privilege. Especially as two of my children are adopted. The weight and magnitude of that is not lost on me. There’s a quote I love, “Not flesh of my flesh nor bone of my bone, yet somehow, miraculously, all my own. Never forget for just one minute, although you weren’t born under my heart, you were born in it.” Heyliger.
What have your children taught you. (Collectedly OR with each child)
That balance is a unicorn. Before I became a Mum I thought I’d be the kind of Mum that could “do it all”. Now I know I can’t. As a Mum I can do an awful lot, but I can’t do it all. Trying to find the perfect balance is pointless, it doesn’t exist.
The second thing my children have taught me is how important it is to show them the path and lead by example. My little ones are sponges right now. These are the years where their character is being formed and their values are instilled. For Tim and I, that looks like taking them on “the journey” with us. For example, taking them on work trips where we can, going as a family to visit their sponsor child or going through their clothes every 6 weeks to give them away. It looks like making sure they know they are not the centre of the universe but that our family, and them, in particular, are part of something so much bigger and they have an important part to play in that.
The values you hope to instill in your children.
Last Mothers Day, my husband Tim and I sat down and worked out what our family values are and what “success” as parents would look like to us. Our faith is a huge motivating factor and so that frames the language we used throughout.
“May you live loved all the days of your life. Knowing you are loved by the Creator of the Universe and by us – Mum and Dad. There is nothing you can do to forfeit that. May you know deep joy. May you stand when no-one else does. Speak for those who cannot. May you know that when it comes to this world there is no us and them, there is only us. May you have eyes to see the lovely in the unlovely for that is so often where we see God. May you pierce darkness with light wherever you go. May you find it easy to forgive because you know the depth of your forgiveness. May you be kind, passionate, confident and respectful whether we’re near and far, close or together.
May you learn and relearn all that God made you for. May you fulfil your purpose in your generation. May you have courage above your peers. May you have more passion for the things of God than others think is necessary. May you dream more than others think is practical. May you expect more than others think is possible. May you rise up and go from strength to strength.
May the Lord bless you and keep you. May his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May his face turn toward you and give you peace. May you be oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour. You were made by God for such a time as this. Flourish darling’s, flourish.”
Photography: Tash and Arie Stokes of Black Robin Photography
Saben Style: Helen wears Saben staple Tilly’s Big Sis’. A chic and compact cross-body that it intuitively functional. Perfect to keep the essentials close and your hands free for the important things.
Stay connected with Helen:
Helen has worked with World Vision, Tearfund and USAID to name a few. Helen’s work has taken her around the world to some of the most challenging environments documenting famine, refugee settlements, post war environments, child sponsorship, trauma counselling and disaster zones. Be sure to follow the link in her bio to view her brilliant photography, capturing the essence of people in their journey through struggles, showcasing their resilience love and finding joy. There you will also find a link through to her blog, and we trust you’ll love it as much as we do.
Besties and business partners, Nia and Talia are the creative duo behind local womenswear brand Layplan. On the blog we chat about business, what inspires them and intentional design.