The picture of poverty: Vail photographer in India to touch the Untouchables |

The picture of poverty: Vail photographer in India to touch the Untouchables

This girl is an attentive student studying in one of the typical Indo-International classrooms built by, at the school in Kuran India. Her eyes show clearly see how hungry she is for knowledge and opportunity. Previously because of India's caste system this would not be allowed.
Sean F. Boggs |

To help the Ninash Foundation

The Ninash Foundation is a charitable organization, formed in 1996 in memory of Nina Judith Malhotra to help educate students in rural India.

So far, they have built seven schools and have more than 1,700 students.

To donate or for more information, go to

True poverty in places like rural India looks like hopeless people picking through trash to try to find something, anything to eat — the same trash they picked through the day before and the day before that …

Sean Boggs and Sofie Boggs are getting an eyeful and a heartful. They’re in rural India where they’ll tour seven schools in 23 days. In India when they say “rural,” they mean brutally impoverished.

Sean Boggs has been a successful local photographer and marketing specialist for decades. He had never seen anything quite like this.

His 18-year-old daughter Sofie has. She has been on two humanitarian trips already in her young life.

Sofie is an Eagle Valley High School senior who wants to make the world better. She has no illusions about how that’s done: one person, one place at a time. This month, her place is in India.

Family matters

The work in India is a family matter for Sean Boggs and Sofie.

Sean Boggs’ late father and Ashok Malhotra were friends and professors at State University of New York at Oneonta. Malhotra’s wife, Nina, was a pre-kindergarten teacher, social worker and counselor and taught Hindi at SUNY Oneonta.

Ashok and Nina began taking students to India: SUNY Intersession and Semester in India Programs.

Sean Boggs was in middle school when he first heard about these trips, listening to Nina’s stories about the crushing poverty, especially among the Untouchable caste, and especially the girls.

She decided someone should do something for them, and that someone should be her.

The key to helping lift those girls and others, Nina decided, was education. That could mean academia or vocational training, but they needed education and skills. Sometimes it meant bringing people to the U.S., educating them and helping them find employment.

But Nina caught an aggressive form of cancer and died quickly, before she could put boots to her dream.

Her husband, Ashok, picked up her mantle, raising money and spending every dime on his late wife’s vision. In 1996, Ashok and their sons, Raj and Ravi, launched the Ninash Foundation in Nina’s memory.

So far, they have reached 1,700 students — both girls and boys — in seven schools.

Do what you can, all the time

Those are the seven schools where Sofie and Sean Boggs are working with students and staff, taking pictures and video and blogging.

Sean Boggs and Sofie are doing what Sean Boggs calls “environmental portraits,” of those impoverished students in the students’ homes.

The reason is not complicated: They’re raising money to help educate these children, helping them help themselves out of poverty.

“We wanted to help give these kids a better foundation for funding. We want to do some good work, and do some good,” Sean Boggs said.

This has been a long-time coming for Sean Boggs. When he was a college student at SUNY Oneonta he wanted to go on those trips, but couldn’t afford it.

He moved to Colorado and launched a successful commercial photography business, winning international awards for his work.

“Like any good human, I started thinking about how I could change the lives of others like I had changed mine,” Sean Boggs said.

He followed that thought back to his upstate New York roots and the Ninash Foundation, which led Sofie and him to India where they’re helping change lives — theirs and the people touched by the Ninash Foundation.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

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