Compassionate Eye Foundation

Development Efforts, Photography, and Creativity: Introducing Compassionate Eye Foundation


Susan McDonald is the Executive Director of Compassionate Eye Foundation (CEF), an innovative non-profit organisation founded on the principle that creative people as a community can and want to make a positive difference in the world. 

Creativity and social causes all wrapped into one? You can’t get much better than that. The mission of CEF is to support, honour, and empower those in developing nations in order to expand educational opportunities, basic health services, and tools for sustainable economic development.


student concentrating deeply on the text in front of him

Children learning in the new school in Peer Literacy and Textbook Program in Sierra Leone


What’s great about this organization is that it's run based on volunteerism and a community made up of people who provide resources to support the organisational goals.

CEF began as a small non-profit effort, primarily developed following the travel experiences of its founder, Robert Kent. Robert spent some time traveling to Asia, South Africa and Central America.  After the experiences he had during these travels, he was motivated to find a way to make a difference and decided to found CEF. CEF has grown from a small grassroots organization to what it is today – an internationally recognized non-profit with a direct partnership with the established Getty Images. When Robert first approached Getty Images about the idea of a joint venture with CEF photographers as contract photographers for Getty, the idea was too good to turn down. 


Summer solstice photo, LA

Summer solstice photo, LA


An interview with Susan provides us with the story behind the non-profit organisation that has so successfully combined arts, culture, and international social issues into its business processes: becoming an inspiration to other non-profits and a key leader in its field.

1.    Can you tell me about some of the projects CEF has been involved with and in what regions of the world these projects were undertaken?

CEF started in Guatemala and over the past five years we have built classrooms in two communities, supported a preschool project, computer skills project, scholarships for education past grade 6, and scholarships for technical college. We have also supported a pre and post natal project, grandmothers group and women’s health group.  An agro forestry project is in place including training of a greenhouse worker, as well as a project rearing rabbits, and there is a project to replace tools for workers who lost their tools, and sometimes their homes, in the tropical storm Agatha this year.

Over time we have worked with other organisations that mirror our goals and values, and support our mission statement.  We have supported a Peer Literacy and Textbook program in Sierra Leone, food security in Ethiopia, adopting a village in India and Sierra Leone, a garden project in South Africa, and just recently we made a 3 year commitment to building a 3 classroom block and a library in Zambia.




2.    What were the opportunities and challenges of working with various cultures?

The opportunities have been amazing.  Over time we have seen children grow and learn.  The chance for us to get to know and develop relationships with communities has enriched our lives. The challenges have been relatively minor as we have tried to follow the lead of the community members, talking about their strengths and their visions for the future.


Summer Solstice - Seattle

Summer Solstice - Seattle


3.    What are the Summer Solstice Shoots?

The Summer Solstice Shoots are our major fundraising event.  Once a year, on or about June 21st, photographers and their crews donate their time to create Stock Photography imagery, and gift the imagery that is produced to CEF.  The royalties earned by the sales of those images comes to CEF and we devote those funds to projects around the world.

This year was our fifth Annual Summer Solstice Shoot.  All the imagery selected by Getty Images will be added to our collection. 


Summer Solstice San Francisco

Summer Solstice San Francisco


Summer Solstice San Francisco



4.    How can people give or sponsor a project?

On our website we have a donation page for individuals who would like to donate.  We also have the option of PayPal.  As a registered Canadian Charity we are able to issue tax receipts.

Another way to support our organisation is offering your skills and talents to strengthen the organisation.  We are a volunteer-based group and work to find a match between volunteers’ skills and our organisational needs.  We have supporters around the world. 

Finally, if you know any organisation that uses stock photography in advertising, or to accompany articles or for any other reason, please direct them to our growing collection of images at Getty Images.  The direct link to our collection is

You can also access the collection via our website by clicking on the button “our images”.

New great imagery produced this year by teams in Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, New York and Vancouver, B.C. Canada, is being edited and will be uploaded on that site very soon.


Summer Solstice Vancouver

Summer Solstice Vancouver


5.    How can people find out more about CEF?

Please go to our website, check out our blog, and follow us on Facebook:!/pages/Compassionate-Eye-Foundation/59395239160, or join our Twitter updates: CEFoundation.




Jennifer Dooley is a photo activist for All of Us Together: and a social cause marketer for Dooley Social Change: In August, 2010, Wandering Educators recognized Jennifer as photographer of the month. She has also been featured on the site for her work on the Mom Book and Videography of the Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu in Peru. She can be reached at jennifer[at]


All photos courtesy and copyright CEF

Feauture photo: WCSL students practice letters and sounds