Mark Arnoldy

CIW Connections: Nyaya Health’s Mark Arnoldy, Dear World’s Robert Fogarty Use Photographs to Support Healthcare in Nepal

Mark Arnoldy, a 2012 Bluhm/Hefland Social Innovation Fellow, is the founder of Nyaya Health, a charity that relies on crowdfunding to support safe births and other medical procedures for people in some of Nepal’s most remote corners.  
Robert Fogarty’s business Dear World began as a set of powerful photographs of Katrina victims who wrote messages of hope and survival written on their skin in black permanent marker.  This social and artistic “experiment”, as he refers to Dear World, has since grown to use these messages to tell the stories of cancer survivors, Syrian refugees and many others.
When the social entrepreneurs met two years ago at Chicago Ideas Week, they knew that they would work together.  They just didn’t know yet how.  After all, it’s no easy—or inexpensive—task to get a team of photographers and their bulky equipment to an area that Arnoldy terms “one of the most isolated regions in all of Southeast Asia.”  But Arnoldy felt strongly that Fogarty’s ability to translate complex, unfamiliar situations into affecting images with simple, accessible messages was crucial to Nyaya’s success.
Fogarty (shown here) was unfamiliar with Nepal before traveling from
New Orleans to rural Nepal this year with Arnoldy.  Photo courtesy of Robert Fogarty.
Then, in 2013, Nyaya Health received a grant from Sappi Ideas that Matter, a program run by Sappi Fine Paper North America that has provided over 500 nonprofit organizations with nearly $12 million in funding over the past 15 years.  With the money to back it up, the collaboration between the health organization based in rural Nepal and the storytelling photographer from New Orleans was off and running.
One “insane” 14-hour trip later (Arnoldy called Fogarty and his team “troopers” for enduring numerous flights and the 12-hour rickety train ride that capped off the trip), Arnoldy, Fogarty and Benjamin and David Reece, two brothers who often collaborate with Fogarty, arrived in a remote village in western Nepal.  The team photographed recipients of healthcare through Nyaya Health, using Fogarty’s signature black marker to tell the hopes, dreams and outcomes of these patients.  From an adolescent boy who writes “Now I can be a doctor” to a young mother’s bald statement “We could have died at home”, Arnoldy and Fogarty believe the images effectively illustrate Nyaya Health’s simple charitable mission.  In a country where a safe birth costs $349, Nyaya’s website argues that a $10 donation to an expecting mother or a patient awaiting a specific medical treatment goes a long way.
Since the site went live December 2, 2013—just one day ahead of this year’s Giving Tuesday charity campaign—Nyaya Health has raised $7,522 to fund safe deliveries for 24 women, as well as a total of $21,120 to provide full or partial treatment to a total of 22 Nepali patients.  The initial statistics available through Nyaya, which strives for financial transparency in its charity work, indicate the ability of the crowdfunding model to draw a diverse group of funders, with New Yorkers, Californians, Minnesotans and everyone in between contributing to the healthcare of struggling patients nearly 8,000 miles away.
Arnoldy credits Dear World’s photographs with making Nyaya a “compelling giving opportunity” to Americans who are otherwise unfamiliar with rural Nepal.  “We feel incredibly grateful to have Robert’s photography associated with our organization because I think there’s nothing else like it.  There’s nothing else that has this kind of storytelling power.”
“Mark is just one awesome example of how we connected and did some really cool work I think that perhaps would never have happened without [CIW],” Fogarty said of his participation in CIW.
Arnoldy agreed.  “It was serendipitous to meet Robert at that time for sure because we had just been on the very front edge of exploring this crowdfunding model,” he said.
Arnoldy hopes that a grassroots postcard campaign—with postcards like the one shown
here featuring health guru Deepak Chopra
—will keep interest in Nyaya Health going
long after their initial launch.  Photo courtesy of Nyaya Health and Dear World.
This exploration didn’t end with the website’s launch last week.  They’ve distributed 75,000 postcards to coffee shops, churches and schools and put up ads in some of New York City’s highest-traffic subway stations.  Arnoldy and Fogarty are also already thinking ahead to where Nyaya—and Dear World’s contributions to it—might go next.   Arnoldy admits that the team faces a “huge challenge” in order to figure out the transition from Nyaya’s initial “hyper-intense campaign” to a sustainable giving model.
“We’re all interested in looking at the next big thing,” Arnold said of the Nyaya and Dear World teams.  “We’re looking for new opportunities to keep bringing people closer to this work.”
If you are interested in learning more about Nyaya Health—or contributing yourself—please visit
Other examples of Robert Fogarty’s work can be found at

Erin Robertson is managing editor at Chicago Ideas.

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