An information collection method called photovoice was utilized to assess ZOE, an orphan empowerment program in Meru County, Kenya. “ZOE” is the Greek word for life and the ZOE program was founded in 2004, serving nearly 30,000 orphans and vulnerable children in seven countries. Participants were graduates of the program between the ages of 16 and 25 years. They were elected by their peers to be leaders of their working groups within their communities and demonstrated responsible leadership throughout the program.
The four research questions provided to the participants addressed positive and negative aspects of one’s life prior to the program and after completing the program:
1. What was difficult about your life before the ZOE program?
2. What was great about your life before the ZOE program?
3. What remains difficult about your life now that you joined the ZOE program?
4. What has improved about your life now because of the ZOE program?
Participants took photographs and provided corresponding narratives to be used for analysis. Narratives were coded by hand and emerged themes were summarized in tables and networks demonstrating their relationships. Staying true to the nature of photovoice, an educational photo book was created using the photos and narratives in order to reach a broader audience and to showcase the participants’ stories. Social capital and economic development were identified as the driving forces for the successful completion of the ZOE program. Additionally, sibling resiliency played a large part in the experiences of the orphan heads of household. Once participants assumed the caretaker role, family management and decisions were based on ensuring siblings’ basic needs were met, emphasizing the importance of siblings staying together after parental loss.