Southeast Alumna Capturing Renewed Hope

Southeast Alumna Capturing Renewed Hope

Southeast alumna Elena Brown ‘12 is making a difference in the world, one photo at a time in Kijabe, Kenya.

Brown is a photojournalist and videographer for the orthopedic hospital in Kenya, Africa. She is employed by CURE International, a non-profit that helps set up and operate charitable children’s hospitals worldwide, serving children with conditions like clubfoot, bowed legs, cleft lips, burns and hydrocephalus, providing them with life-changing surgeries.

“Our hospitals specialize according to what that country’s need is, while sharing the gospel of Christ,” she says. “I build online profiles for each child we treat to help bridge the gap between supporters and families in need. I help to collect stories on each patient, learning about their background, their families and their condition. I see a lot of poverty, malnutrition, loss, abandonment and filth, but more so, I see miracles and healing.”

At Southeast, Brown earned a Bachelor of Science in mass communications with a television and film option.

“What excites me about working in this field is that it can take you almost anywhere,” she says. “Working in mass media is like having a huge press pass to get you behind the stage of everything, even people’s lives. Behind the scenes is where the real story often is.”

Formerly of Carbondale, Illinois, and Wauconda, Washington, Brown says she got much more than she bargained for with her position at CURE.

“Honestly, I wanted to work for CURE because I wanted to move somewhere new, and I liked kids and I thought it sounded like an adventure. It’s so much more than that now that I’m here,” she says. “I see mothers and fathers literally dancing with joy at their child’s corrected deformities. Every day I make a cup of coffee, walk to work, and see hope restored. I get to be on the front lines—getting to capture it all. It’s the most humbling thing I’ve ever been a part of.”

Brown says the personal attention she received while studying at Southeast has helped prepare her for her latest adventure.

“I learned quickly that Southeast isn’t in the business of getting kids in debt. It’s actually trying to teach them,” she says. “The professors were so one-on-one and raw in their teaching. It felt a whole lot more like real life and a lot less like a classroom. This made transitioning out of college a much smoother process.

“Southeast was a home to me. The people in my department—they were my family. They still are,” she says. “I spent so many late nights editing and working in the greenroom, and that’s where I formed my closest relationships. If I needed a nap, I found a nice place on the floor to curl up. If I needed a snack, I knew what teacher to go to. If I needed encouragement, I knew the one for that too. It wasn’t just a school to me—it really was a home.”

She wholeheartedly encourages all Southeast students and alumni to take the knowledge learned and those relationships created and be open to using it in ways you might never have imagined.

“Be unafraid of where your degree might take you. When I graduated with a degree in film, I certainly didn’t think I’d be in scrubs everyday watching children undergo fascinating surgeries. However, that’s where my degree took me, and I couldn’t be more grateful. That box that people tell you to think outside of—I say do away with it completely.”

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