Women Who Rock The World: Heidi Good
These women have traveled to the far corners of the world. They are trailblazers and charismatic champions of change. They are courageous. And best part of all: They are all West Virginians.
Where is she now? Bamako, Mali
Mali is an impoverished country in western Africa, with a population of 12 million who live on less than $1.50 a day. It is a country where the average woman is married at the age of 14 and one in 15 women die in childbirth. And it is where Wheeling native Heidi Good now calls home.
An accomplished documentary photographer and development communications specialist, Heidi works with UNICEF—the United Nations Children’s Fund—on creating advocacy-based materials for projects supporting child survival and maternal health, access to safe drinking water, girls’ education, and malnutrition.
What gives photographs their power? Photographs have immediacy; they can transport you to a particular time and place instantly. An image lets you witness a particular moment, but you still need to fill in the before and after with your own imagination. Perhaps what you see is radically different from your own life, or it feels familiar, or sparks a question. This is what interests me—the way that people connect to other people through an image. This is what I hope to accomplish—the making of a little window.
Why should an average person sitting in their home in West Virginia care about what is going on in Mali? Gold and cotton are two of Mali’s primary exports. Perhaps the shirt you bought was sourced from material that was grown here. Perhaps your wedding ring originated from the mines here. How many international routes were crossed to get to you? How many people worked, likely for a very minimum rate, to produce the raw material? The average person relies on an understated interconnectedness. Mali is one of the very poorest countries on Earth, yet the people here are generous and welcoming. A family with no real means will still offer you a meal if you were hungry with nothing expected in return. People should care about Mali because, like learning about any culture that is different from your own, there are interesting things you’ll come to understand about the world, its connections, and yourself.
What excites you about working with UNICEF? I get very excited to see positive change at the community level. UNICEF supports a variety of initiatives that are simple, high-impact, and cost effective. In Mali, we work with community health volunteers to reach out to women and children who live too far from a health center to have real access to care, and who have no reliable means of transportation.
How did you become interested in working with UNICEF in Africa? I worked as a photographer and a photo editor for a handful of years after college before going to graduate school for International Relations. After I received my master’s degree, I worked for Doctors Without Borders for two years before taking a career break to be with my mother in West Virginia while she battled an ultimately terminal cancer. After her death, I needed a change and knew that I wanted to return to international development work; I moved back to New York to take a position at UNICEF's Department of Communications at Headquarters. This progressed into a field-based position pretty quickly.
As you’ve traveled the world, what lessons have you learned? That each day is what you make of it and that people are amazingly resilient. I’ve traveled in 30 countries and I always see the similarities between “home” and wherever I am. Everyone has the same basic needs and what we each do to fulfill those needs changes based on our environment, our access to services, our options for work and our education.
You mentioned that your father, Larry Good, inspired you to be a photographer. Did he encourage you to pursue an international career? Yes, he did, he still is very supportive. My dad traveled around the world in the Navy with a Nikon he bought in Tokyo in the 1950s. He understands what I’m doing, and it makes him really happy to hear about my little adventures. My mom and he were very encouraging and supportive of my wanderlust. There was never any guilt trip about leaving West Virginia, probably because they knew that I loved coming home!
What do you miss about WV? I miss the rolling mountains and the grass more than ever now that I am living at the edge of the Sahara, but I will be moving back to the States soon and can’t wait to go whitewater rafting, eat DiCarlos pizza, and breathe fresh air! And of course, take my niece to the Good Zoo in Wheeling!